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gītā mayā tava nṛpādbhutam īśvarasya
sthūlaṁ vapuḥ sakala-jīva-nikāya-dhāma
Thus end the Bhaktivedanta purports of the Fifth Canto, Twenty-sixth Chapter, of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, entitled “A Description of the Hellish Planets.”
— Completed in the Honolulu temple of the Pañca-tattva, June 5, 1995.
There is a supplementary note written by His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Mahārāja Prabhupāda in his Gauḍīya-bhāṣya. Its translation is as follows. Learned scholars who have full knowledge of all the Vedic scriptures agree that the incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are innumerable. These incarnations are classified into two divisions, called prābhava and vaibhava. According to the scriptures, prābhava incarnations are also classified in two divisions — those which are called eternal and those which are not vividly described. In this Fifth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, in Chapters Three through Six, there is a description of Ṛṣabhadeva, but there is not an expanded description of His spiritual activities. Therefore He is considered to belong to the second group of prābhava incarnations. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, First Canto, Chapter Three, verse 13, it is said:
aṣṭame merudevyāṁ tu
nābher jāta urukramaḥ
darśayan vartma dhīrāṇāṁ
“Lord Viṣṇu appeared in the eighth incarnation as the son of Mahārāja Nābhi [the son of Āgnīdhra] and his wife Merudevī. He showed the path of perfection, the paramahaṁsa stage of life, which is worshiped by all the followers of varṇāśrama-dharma.” Ṛṣabhadeva is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His body is spiritual (sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha). Therefore one might ask how it might be possible that he passed stool and urine. The Gauḍīya vedānta ācārya Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa has replied to this question in his book known as Siddhānta-ratna (First Portion, texts 65-68). Imperfect men call attention to Ṛṣabhadeva’s passing stool and urine as a subject matter for the study of nondevotees, who do not understand the spiritual position of a transcendental body. In this Fifth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (5.6.11) the illusioned and bewildered state of the materialists of this age is fully described. Elsewhere in Fifth Canto (5.5.19) Ṛṣabhadeva stated, idaṁ śarīram mama durvibhāvyam: “This body of Mine is inconceivable for materialists.” This is also confirmed by Lord Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā (9.11):
avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā
mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam
paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto
“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” The human form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is extremely difficult to understand, and, in fact, for a common man it is inconceivable. Therefore Ṛṣabhadeva has directly explained that His own body belongs to the spiritual platform. This being so, Ṛṣabhadeva did not actually pass stool and urine. Even though He superficially seemed to pass stool and urine, that was also transcendental and cannot be imitated by any common man. It is also stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that the stool and urine of Ṛṣabhadeva were full of transcendental fragrance. One may imitate Ṛṣabhadeva, but he cannot imitate Him by passing stool that is fragrant.
The activities of Ṛṣabhadeva, therefore, do not support the claims of a certain class of men known as arhat, who sometimes advertise that they are followers of Ṛṣabhadeva. How can they be followers of Ṛṣabhadeva while they act against the Vedic principles? Śukadeva Gosvāmī has related that after hearing about the characteristics of Lord Ṛṣabhadeva, the King of Koṅka, Veṅka and Kuṭaka initiated a system of religious principles known as arhat. These principles were not in accord with Vedic principles, and therefore they are called pāṣaṇḍa-dharma. The members of the arhat community considered Ṛṣabhadeva’s activities material. However, Ṛṣabhadeva is an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore He is on the transcendental platform, and no one can compare to Him.
Ṛṣabhadeva personally exhibited the activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (5.6.8), dāvānalas tad vanam ālelihānaḥ saha tena dadāha: at the conclusion of Ṛṣabhadeva’s pastimes, an entire forest and the Lord’s body were burned to ashes in a great forest fire. In the same way, Ṛṣabhadeva burned people’s ignorance to ashes. He exhibited the characteristics of a paramahaṁsa in His instructions to His sons. The principles of the arhat community, however, do not correspond to the teachings of Ṛṣabhadeva.
Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa remarks that in the Eighth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam there is another description of Ṛṣabhadeva, but that Ṛṣabhadeva is different from the one described in this canto.
END OF THE FIFTH CANTO